Billy Boston, Gus Risman and Clive Sullivan chosen for Cardiff statue

Three of the greatest rugby league players in the history of the game – Billy Boston, Gus Risman and Clive Sullivan – have been selected to adorn a statue to commemorate the Cardiff Bay Codebreakers.

The public and a special panel of experts agreed on the trio who will now be immortalised on a statue that will represent all the players who headed north from the Cardiff Bay area to star in the 13-a-side game.

The public were offered a list of 13 former greats who were all born in an area that took in the old Tiger Bay, Butetown, Grangetown, Adamsdown and Splott areas of south Cardiff and invited to vote for their favourite three.

All the players were then awarded extra points for their career successes before a seven strong panel of experts, including the current captains of the Welsh men’s and women’s rugby league teams, Elliot Kear and Rafique Taylor, as well as all-time greats Jim Mills and Jonathan Davies, were presented with the top six selections.

They were given the chance to choose their top three, earning extra points for their picks, to complete the selection process.

All members of the panel agreed with the public vote and so Boston, Risman and Sullivan will now join forces on a plinth that will also remember the other 10 players.

“It is a fantastic outcome and we had almost 14,000 votes from the public. They obviously know their stuff because the top three were all rubber stamped in exactly the same order by each of the seven members of the panel,” said Cardiff Bay Codebreakers chairman, Sir Stan Thomas.

“We offered up 13 great names from the past and we feel the three that have been chosen for a statue will inspire the youngsters from their area well into the future. Billy, Gus and Clive all have incredible back stories behind their incredible sporting careers.

“Billy and Gus were born and bred in the old Tiger Bay area and both went to South Church Street School. Clive came from Splott.

“Having the three of them together on a statue is comparable to seeing Bleddyn Williams, Gareth Edwards and Alun Wyn Jones joining forces on a rugby union statue or John Charles, Ian Rush and Gareth Bale being linked in a football version.

“All three were legends for their clubs and starred for Wales and Great Britain. Billy and Clive won the Rugby League World Cup, while Gus captained Great Britain to a series victory in Australia and scored more than 4,000 points in his incredible, 24 year playing career.

“Billy and Clive were both trail blazers for black sportsmen during their playing days, Clive becoming the first black captain of any British international rugby team when he led his side to World Cup glory in 1972.

“There is already a statue of Billy in Wigan, where he played and still lives, and he and Gus are among five players captured in bronze on a rugby league statue at Wembley Stadium. Now they will all be immortalised in their home city.”

More than £300,000 needs to be raised to complete a statue, which will be erected in the heart of the Cardiff Bay area.

Fund raising has already begun and Sir Stan is hoping the public will back the appeal as strongly as they did the voting. It is hoped the whole process can be completed within two years.

“Billy, Gus and Clive have always been huge figures in Cardiff’s rich sporting story, but the way in which they broke out of their local boundaries, beat racial prejudices and went on to become global superstars makes them even more compelling figures,” said Huw Thomas, leader of Cardiff Council.

“A statue to the three of them will be a great addition to the city and we hope it will act as a catalyst within their old locality. The example they set should be an inspiration to others.”

The 13 players nominated were Billy Boston, Dennis Brown, Gerald CordleJoe Corsi, Colin Dixon, Roy Francis, Johnny Freeman, Gus Risman, Clive Sullivan, Jim Sullivan, Frank Whitcombe, William ‘Wax’ Williams and Dave Willicombe.